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Pitino’s Problem

by Andrew Force | December 27th, 2007

Traditionally well-stocked power Louisville is about to reach deep into their provisions. The former 10th and 11th men off the bench need to make sure they are wearing actual uniforms under their warm-ups. Tying shoes tight actually matters now.

‘Lace ‘em up kid, you are going in!’

Injuries continue to pelt the ‘Ville like an asteroid belt. Every time UL head coach Rick Pitino constructs a rotation, a key player inadvertently removes himself from it.

Let us start at the beginning.

The seemingly innocuous transfer of Jonathan Huffman kicked off the campaign way back in April. Didn’t matter then. Matters now. Louisville only has two completely healthy, problem free frontcourt players.

Juan Palacios, silky smooth Colombian forward, entered the infirmary first with a torn knee ligament.

Palacios is expected back in December, meaning you can look for him in late January. Surely the medical staff knows “Tello” on sight now as his entire career has been bogged down by injuries. Coach Pitino has been so far as to say Palacios is “injury-prone” and a “slow healer.”

Only weeks later UL took another frontcourt blow. Center David Padgett has endured more setbacks in his college career than one man should have to. Fracturing his right kneecap against Jackson State in mid-November currently rests at the end of the list.

“I couldn’t believe it. All the injuries I’ve had,” reflected Padgett afterwards. “All the surgeries and all that. It is my senior year and I am finally looking for a good year.”

Could it be the end of the list because it marks the end of his career? The prognosis is 10 weeks minimum. There is a chance he will miss the year. The upbeat team captain thinks, “There is a definite possibility I could come back sooner. The good thing about this is it’s a bone injury. Once it is healed, that’s it.”

The latest hurdle for the UL coaching staff has been yet another Derrick Caracter fiasco. Somehow Caracter violated curfew twice in one night last week, which would seem physically impossible. Maybe it’s a condemnation of his weight issues. Like when Garfield says he wears two watches, one on each wrist, because each side of him is in a different time zone.

Or maybe not.

Regardless, Pitino immediately reinstated Caracter from his indefinitely long suspension after just one game. Oh my! Did the King of Kentucky take some heat for that? Not necessarily wrong-founded criticisms rained down about Pitino caving to a player the team needed, instead of the Little General imposing the warranted suspension.

Caracter has the greatest ceiling of the three (Padgett, Palacios, Caracter). Palacios plays with the most fluidity, but Padgett filled an irreplaceable need.

DP, with a handful of injuries behind him, still ran well, controlled the paint, and rebounded exceptionally.

The current squad has Terrance Farley in the paint. While Farley can block shots he has no post moves and will contribute nothing more than the occasional garbage bucket.

That leaves Pitino and the masses of Louisville fans to lean on the frail maturity of one Derrick Caracter. Is that a collective gulp resonating throughout Kentucky?

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